The statement below was released by the Refugee Action Coalition on February 16.
Report from Manus Island indicate a major protest and breakout has taken place on Manus Island late this afternoon. The most recent reports indicate that the riot squad has been mobilised and that the perimeter fence has been breached.
Protests have been building all day, but escalated after a meeting (around 2pm Manus time) was held to answer asylum seeker’s questions about resettlement.
Shockingly, the asylum seekers were told that they “will not be resettled in PNG” and if they wanted to go somewhere else, they will need to arrange that themselves.
There had been protests throughout the day, but around 4pm Manus Island time, events escalated and the G4S riot squad went into Oscar compound.
A couple of hours later, fences were knocked down and the whole detention centre was locked down as the protests spread to all the compounds. There were reports of a fire being set in one compound and tents have been destroyed.
It seems the perimeter fence of one compound, perhaps Oscar, has now been breached and a major protest is underway.
There are reports of asylum seekers being injured by G4S guards. Some asylum seekers have been taken to the police station.
There have been daily protests on Manus Island involving hundreds of asylum seekers since 25 January as frustrations have increased over delays in processing and uncertainty about their future.
Today’s announcement that there would be no resettlement in PNG confirms earlier reports that resettlement was never a part of the PNG deal and the PNG government has never had plans to resettle refugees.